Excellent early care and education can be found throughout the St. Louis region! Here are tips on how to evaluate programs for your child. No matter what type of program you are interested in, choosing high quality early care and education can be one of the most difficult decisions that we make as parents. Deciding who is going to care for your most valuable possessions (your kids☺) while you are working or attending school can be a cause of stress and anxiety, but following these guidelines can help to ease many of your worries.
First and most importantly, plan ahead! You need time to research a program before making a choice. Some important questions to consider:
- Is the program licensed by the state?
- Is it accredited by either Missouri Accreditation or the National Association for the Education of Young Children?
- Is it in good standing with the agencies that regulate child care?
- Are there spots available or is there a waiting list?
- What does the enrollment process include?
High quality programs will schedule an enrollment meeting to discuss all of these questions with potential parents. If you are comfortable with the answers you received, you also need to schedule a tour. On your tour, think about these questions:
- Does the program feel warm and inviting?
- Does it feel safe?
- Is it clean?
- Is the staff smiling?
- Is the staff able to answer all of your questions?
- Does the staff seem organized?
- Is the staff First Aid/CPR certified for infants, toddlers and preschoolers?
- Are the children engaged and having fun?
- How many adults are there in each classroom?
- Are the adults engaged with the children?
- What type of curriculum does the program follow? Is it appropriate for the children’s ages? (Activities should be hands-on and encourage the children’s creativity.)
The person conducting the tour should be able to answer most of these questions, but always remember to go with your gut! First impressions can go a long way.
Finally, once you have decided on a program, be sure to stay involved. Make a point to get to know your child’s teachers and caregivers. Volunteer your time if you can. The more involved you are with the program, the more comfortable you will feel and the more successful your child will be. Never be afraid to ask questions and give suggestions. You are your child’s most important advocate!